Tag Archives: public diplomacy

TMONE in Hand: Second Tour Daydreaming

With less than a year to go in my current post, it’s time to start looking towards tour #2. Earlier this week I received the official State Department confirmation of my second tour: my TMONE. It’s basically a diplomatic cable announcing your assignment to your current post and your new post. Come 2019, I will be headed to the US Embassy in Riga, Latvia!!

I’ll be the Cultural Attache, basically my dream job of representing American culture to Latvians through exchange scholarships, cultural programs, and more. It was my top bid and I feel incredibly lucky. Explaining to people where Latvia is located has been fun too.

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Thankfully, I’ve known where I was going for my second tour for almost 6 months now. It’s been really nice to know this far in advance. Looking at pictures of my new home in Latvia has gotten me through some tough days at the border. Riga will be incredible and I am absolutely thrilled to live there for 2 years. My main criteria after the border were: 1. a big, vibrant city with things to do for singles, 2. somewhere with no security restrictions, and 3. in Europe. Riga is the perfect fit for me. I so look forward to walking through old town Riga, exploring all the restaurants and bars, not to mention the national parks, forests, and beaches of Latvia!

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Bidding for my second tour in the Foreign Service was way different than I expected. Unlike in A-100, it’s your job to research each position and make sure the timing works. Doing this for 15 positions is challenging when you have to consider your limit of 78 weeks in training for entry-level officers, getting an in-cone job (whether that is consular, public diplomacy, etc), equity if you come from a hardship post, when language class starts, and personal preference. Oh yeah, I also had to do this during our busiest temporary work visa season (!)

The way my timing worked out is pretty standard for other public diplomacy officers I know. Language training and cultural affairs officer tradecraft will have me back in Washington come fall 2018. I’ll be living in DC again for about 9 months before moving to Riga. Getting paid to learn Russian makes me really excited, but also slightly terrified. I probably wouldn’t want that any other way though.

I’m kind of a nerd about bidding because I love to imagine where I’ll be in the next few years of my Foreign Service career. I still read a lot of post reports (talesmag.com is excellent) out of pure curiosity. It makes sense why I’m in this career… 🙂

Getting “The Call” for the Foreign Service!

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Or rather “the email”! I am so excited to finally share that I accepted an offer to join the Foreign Service!! A week ago from today, I got the email that is about to drastically change my life.

I will be a Public Diplomacy Officer in the 185th A-100 orientation class. On January 11, 2016, I start my first day as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC! This still feels incredibly unreal. I feel like I waited so long for the State Department to finally hire me, and yet I know many people on the Yahoo groups have been waiting much, much longer. Still, it is a huge relief to know my future at last!

The way I found out is pretty hilarious in hindsight. I currently live and work as a teacher in Thailand, which is 12 hours exactly ahead of DC. Thus, when offers for several cones went out on Tuesday night (DC morning), I chose to stay up until 3AM here to see if PD offers would be extended..

Surprisingly they were not until the next day. This meant I planned to stay up until the wee morning hours again Wednesday night to await my fate! This time I couldn’t sleep from happiness though- at 9:30 pm here, I saw a PD offer for the January class in my inbox. I have honestly never been so happy in my entire life. I called my parents on FaceTime immediately to share the good news. The Foreign Service has been my dream for so long- since I discovered I love to travel, that I’m good at languages and history, and am passionate about helping Americans and sharing our diverse and rich culture.

Returning to DC will be all the more meaningful because last time I was there, it was as an intern. I worked during summer 2014 at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training located at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This time when I head to FSI for training every day, it will be as a US diplomat. (!!!) I am so honored. My former supervisors from ADST and the US Embassy in Vienna currently work in DC, so I’ll be able to personally thank them for their support and mentorship when I start training.

I don’t really think it’ll hit me until the first day of training. Fingers crossed there will be a lot of formal oaths and inspiring speeches in A-100. I suspect I will be holding back tears often that this dream I had when I was 15 is finally real.

Quick Career Update

There have been some major developments on the Foreign Service front. While I was about to go to bed here in Thailand last night, I noticed on the Yahoo A-100 group that some people reported offers for the January 11 orientation class!! 

On November 24th State received hiring authority for January, much much earlier than the December 8-11 I had anticipated. I wondered if my life was about to change dramatically. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know yet if I’m getting an offer)

In what would be the biggest mistake ever, I stayed up until 3:30 AM here (afternoon in DC..) to see if public diplomacy offers would go out. They did not, and still have not. While ecstatic consular, management, and some political coned candidates are celebrating, I’m still waiting. The time difference of night and day between us is not working well for someone as obsessed as me.

According to the official forums, offers for all 5 cones including PD and Econ will go out next week too. After Thanksgiving break! I am not super excited to be waiting until next week to find out my fate. But it’s a lot sooner than I had thought!

People as high as #22 and #24 were offered invitations though. That may bode well for a sizable January class! I am super hopeful that I will be called at #11 for PD. We’ll see in the next week!

Snapshots of Doha: Reflections from an amazing trip

Like all proper overseas spring break excursions, our trip to Doha had us busy and moving the entire day. It was nice to take a real break from being on the internet all day- but I thought I’d post again after coming back to Houston to reflect on the whole experience and how much I learned about public diplomacy in the Gulf. These are just a few of my favorite pictures from the trip and I’ll explain the story behind each one!

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Camel riding in the desert outside Doha

Since I’d never been sand duning or camel riding in the States or anywhere before this trip, I was super excited for this day. Before our group dove into the academic side of the program, we went outside of the city for adventures in the desert. The personal highlight for me was definitely sand duning- the Qatari drivers we had were ridiculously fearless. Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world, so most Qataris just work in whatever field they find the most intriguing. Our driver was even nicknamed “Qatari wolf” so you can imagine how intense it was to drive straight down the dunes!

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The Colloquium begins

Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies (QFIS) at Hamad bin Khalifa University hosted us for the entire student conference. Every day from Sunday-Friday, we met in this beautiful building pictured above for our research presentations. On the second day there, we got a tour of the building where the architect explained how the building was meant to be half mosque and half academic study of Islam, which I found to be a breathtakingly beautiful design combination. The conference was organized into 4 days of student presentations focused on themes of education, energy/infrastructure, gender equality, and health. I presented on women’s political engagement in Qatar, with the chance to receive feedback from other students and scholars at HBK University. It’s definitely one thing to research gender in Qatar from the US, and quite another to hear from Qatari women leaders themselves about their experiences!

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Sustainable farm visit

Visiting a farm outside of Doha was probably the single most surreal moment of the trip. Everything was incredibly green, flowered, and about the opposite of what you’d expect for the desert. I have doubts on just exactly how sustainable the farm itself was, given the constant AC and irrigation everywhere. It was also quite an experience finding it, as there are not real addresses in Qatar, more just postal codes and landmarks. As a result it took almost 5 hours worth of driving around Doha to find a guy who knew another guy who knew how to get to the farm! Honestly, some of the best memories for me will be singing karaoke with fellow students on the bus out of boredom.

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Relaxation in Doha

Parts of the trip felt like pure vacation, which I badly needed! One morning six of us decided to get up extra early (I would usually never do this, but thanks jet lag!!) and go running along the Corniche. We met at 6 and had the incredible view of Doha’s skyline, green spaces, and flower-lined streets during our jog. That will be one of my favorite moments from this experience by far. Another highlight was on Friday where we had free time in the morning- so a few of us met in the hotel pool to swim. Swimming in the desert heat, followed by a spa shower= perfect spring break.

We also had the chance to visit the US Embassy, which of course was amazing for me but not really possible for pictures due to obvious security reasons. It was cool to see that not only the Cultural Attache, but also the Public Affairs Officer and the Ambassador were all women! Most of the diplomats we met were second tour officers, which makes me really want to bid on Doha as a post in the near future. I think I’d really love living in Qatar for a few years as a diplomat.

Our group left early in the morning (Doha time) on March 7th for a 16 hour flight back to Houston. Part of my body is still convinced we’re in Qatar, which is disconcerting for classes tomorrow. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to visit Doha on this trip and gain more experience for my future career in public diplomacy!

Day 1 in Doha

Jet lagged and weary from our 14 hour flight, the 2015 cohort of Rice’s Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking program arrived in Doha yesterday! Today is our first full day in the city and our schedule is super packed, like any Rice spring break program would be. After we arrived at our boutique hotel in the Souq Waqif, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner outside with live music and the most perfect hummus I’ve likely ever eaten. I love being back in an Islamic country where you wake up to the call to prayer outside your hotel windows.

This morning, we had the incredible chance to meet Dr. Sheikha Abdullah Al-Misnad, the president of Qatar University. Dr. Al-Misnad has such a vast knowledge on all things education and gender related in Qatar, so super relevant for our upcoming research project presentations. I’ve also found it really cool so far just driving around Doha in cabs and getting to see how the locals live and familiar chain restaurants in Arabic. This trip is going to be just amazing- tonight we’re getting to go sand duning, potentially ride camels, and have a campfire barbecue in the desert.

I’m the luckiest girl ever right now. The coolest thing is thinking that my future career in the Foreign Service basically involves what we’re doing on this trip- cultural exchange, travel, public policy. Someone will actually pay me to learn about other cultures and travel to insanely gorgeous cities!? It’s pretty surreal. More to come soon (if the jet lag doesn’t catch up with me first…)

Choosing a Cone: Why I love Public Diplomacy

One of the most important decisions anyone hoping to join the Foreign Service must make is which career track or cone to choose. You also have to decide very early on in the application process- when you register to take the FSOT!

For me, I had always found both Political and Public Diplomacy to be the most interesting and engaging of all five.The other career track choices are Consular, Management, and Economic. When I first heard about the State Department in high school, I imagined being a political officer directly impacting US policy in Europe. Once I spent my spring 2014 semester interning at the US Embassy in Vienna, Austria, I knew that public diplomacy would absolutely be my career track.

To be frank, PD makes all the other cones look boring to me. PD is such a fun mix of activities and engagement with the greater population in a foreign country- basically why I want to become a diplomat to begin with. During my internship in Vienna I had so much fun helping organize the Embassy youth council Today’s Voices, translating media reports into English, and attending amazing events and speakers. I can’t believe someone would actually pay me to plan meaningful events, analyze news developments abroad, serve on cultural exchange committees, and speak to foreign high school students about American culture.

This semester at Rice I’m lucky enough to be involved in a public diplomacy research program as part of the Baker Institute for Public Policy. I’m taking a class called Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking, which travels to Doha, Qatar for a student forum on public diplomacy topics in US-Qatar relations. I’m already geeking out with excitement over researching Qatari politics and how public diplomacy fits in to US policy in Qatar and the Gulf region. You can read more about the program here: http://bakerinstitute.org/public-diplomacy


It’s for reasons like this that it was really no question that I’d pursue public diplomacy as my career track. It didn’t hurt that I also had amazing mentors at the Embassy and got to work personally for the Cultural Attache- a job that I’d absolutely love to have someday, maybe even in Berlin or Vienna!